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Magazine

Todaro Bros: Keeping heritage alive through the family business

Todaro Bros: Keeping heritage alive through the family business

Family-owned companies are an endangered species in New York City, especially amid the chain stores in Manhattan’s Kips Bay neighborhood. One among that persevering breed is Todaro Bros., a gourmet Italian market. Nestled between East 30th and 31st Streets on Second Avenue, the store was established by the Todaros in 1917, and is now run by a member of its third generation, 32-year-old Peter Todaro.

Todaros’ customers rely on the store for imported specialties — high-quality produce, meats, cheeses, and hard-to-find Italian bites — and dishes prepared on-site. Taking the Italy-to-table movement a step further, nearly a century after Todaro’s was founded, Peter opened Enoteca, the eatery within the expanded store, reorganizing the space to accommodate sit-down diners.

Peter’s gamble with Enoteca is far from the first his family has ever taken. Emigrating from southern Italy to America at the turn of the twentieth-century, the three Todaro brothers gave their new Kips Bay neighbors, of primarily Northern Italian descent, a quite literal taste of home. (Todaro Bros. was the first American importer, for instance, of Montasio cheese.)

Sons Mario and Luciano, in turn, inherited the family business. While Mario eventually moved out to the Catskills in the 1970s, opening a sister company, Todaro’s Salumeria, Luciano remained in the city, doubling the size of the shop, then passing it on to Peter, who attended Cornell University as a business major and worked for two years as a sales representative for Nestlé’s Connecticut branch before returning home to assume full duties of the family business. He was well-prepared for this role as owner, as he grew up minding the store’s counter-tops, slicing deli meats, making sandwiches for regulars, cross-referencing inventories, tidying up storage areas, and the like.

Peter’s personal narrative attests to the local pride that New York breeds.  “Born and raised in this neighborhood, I live in this neighborhood, and grew up working in the store.” That personal connection, coupled with a sense of shared history—some of Peter’s staff have been employed by the family for 35 years—distinguish Todaro Bros. from its chain counterparts only a few blocks away. “Family doesn’t necessarily mean you have to have a Todaro last name.”

In line with this month’s theme of “in the family”—in this case, one’s family roots—everything Peter carries behind his doors holds special meaning for him. Committed to traveling, sharing news (whether on the latest fare or up-and-coming farmers), and maintaining ties with long-term vendors, he strives to share experiences that renew “tradition, culture, history in some form or another.”

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Peter's New York State of Mind: 

“I’ve spent 29 out of my 32 years living in New York State. One thing I think is really remarkable about New York is that there’s so much more to New York than New York City. New York is truly a remarkable state. I never really had a true understanding [of that] until I studied upstate.”